All the Way (Romancing Manhattan #1)(9)

“I know you feel grown up, but, Gabby, you can’t run away like that. Something horrible could happen to you, and that would devastate everyone who loves you.”

“I just didn’t want to be here anymore, and the man who usually stays out in the playhouse hasn’t been there in a while, so I decided to go chill out there.”

I still and feel my heart drop into my stomach.

“What man?”

She frowns. “The man that stays in the playhouse,” she repeats. “He’s there all the time.”

I don’t want to freak out in front of her. Actually, I do want to freak out, but I take a deep breath to stay calm. I’ll handle one thing at a time.

“Why didn’t you want to be here anymore?”

She shrugs her slender shoulders and buries her face in her knees.

“I miss my mom,” she says quietly.

Oh, sweet girl, so do I. I know that I haven’t let myself grieve as much as I need to. There are moments when I think that if I give in to the grief, it’ll suck me into the deepest, blackest hole and I’ll never climb my way out.

I blink my own tears away and reach out to smooth her dark curls from her damp face.

“I recently lost both of my parents,” I say, and swallow hard. “So believe me when I say, I sure miss my mom too.”

Her head comes up quickly. “I’m sorry.”

“You didn’t do anything.”

“I’m not very nice sometimes.” She sniffs again. “I don’t know why I act like that. London?”


“Can I tell you something?”


She swallows hard. “I started bleeding yesterday, and I don’t know what to do. Uncle Finn doesn’t have anything here for me, so I’ve just been throwing my underwear away.”

“Oh, my goodness, Gabby.” I pull her into my arms and hug her close. “Do you know about your period?”

“Yeah, we had a class about it.”

“Do you have questions?”

She shakes her head no, and I don’t press her.

“Well, you and I need to go get you some things.”

I stand up and hold my hand out for her, which she takes, and she follows me down the stairs, patiently walking next to me when I have to move slowly.

Finn is waiting in the living room and looks genuinely surprised to see Gabby holding my hand.

“Finn, Gabby and I need to run an errand.”

He frowns. “What kind of errand?”

“I’ll explain later—”

“No—” Gabby begins, but I cut her off.

“I’ll explain later, but I need you to trust me right now. Gabby and I need to run out for a few things, but we’ll be back in about thirty minutes.”

“Okay,” he says immediately, and I step to him so I can speak low, out of Gabby’s range.

“I’ll also need to talk to you about someone apparently living in my playhouse. I don’t know if it’s true, Gabby mentioned it, but it spooked the hell out of me.”

“Jesus.” He runs his hand down his face. “I’ll call the police.”

“No, I can deal with it, but—”

“I’ll call the damn police.” His jaw is firm, ticking, and I know I’m not going to win this battle.

“Please wait to call them until we get back. This is important.”

His eyes narrow. He isn’t happy, but he nods once.

“Wait here,” I say to Gabby. “I’ll go get my car and pick you up in ten minutes.”

She smiles and I hurry as fast as I can to my house, gather my bag and keys and lock up, then drive over to pick up the little girl, who jumps right into my car and fastens her seat belt.

I drive us to a nearby drugstore and lead Gabby to the feminine hygiene aisle, where we hem and haw about which products she’d like to try. I end up grabbing two different kinds, along with a heating pad, new underwear for her, and a shitload of chocolate, which makes her happy.

“A girl needs lots of chocolate when it’s that time of the month,” I inform her. “I don’t know why, it just makes you feel better.”

“I like that part,” she says with a smile, and we pay for our things, then go back to Finn’s, where once inside, I take Gabby into the bathroom to show her how to use her new tools.

When we come back to the living room, Gabby hugs me tight and says, “Thank you.”

And then, to Finn’s absolute shock, she launches herself into his arms and hugs him just as tightly. “I’m sorry, Uncle Finn.”

She kisses his cheek and then runs up the stairs to her bedroom, shutting the door behind her.

Finn blinks rapidly and then stares at me. “What just happened?”

“She started her period,” I reply, and cringe when he hangs his head in his hand. “She didn’t know what to do, or who to talk to. So I just got her all set up with everything she needs, and I think she feels better. But it totally explains the mood swings, and her acting out so badly over the past few days.”

“Thank you,” he says, and then reaches out for my hand and tugs me gently into his arms for a firm hug. “Thank you so much for doing that for her. It’s just my luck that this happened when she’s with me.”

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